The other day, there was a posting on Facebook by a groom “putting it out there,” hoping on a long shot that he could find somebody to shoot their wedding on very, very short notice.
Looking for a photographer to do a small wedding ceremony in Fort Erie, Ontario. My fiancé’s mom has become very ill and we have arranged to be married at the Douglas memorial Fort Erie hospital on Tuesday at 2:30 so that she can be there for her daughter’s wedding. We are desperately looking for someone to capture the moment for us. Please message me with info.
It was around Sunday night that he posted. A few people tagged me in the post and I responded to the groom, offering to do the photography for them. They asked about my price range, but I offered to do it free of charge. It soon became clear that everybody involved in the wedding had donated their services to this young couple, as the mother of the bride was given a week to live just days beforehand, and the daughter wanted nothing more than to be married with her mother in attendance.
It was kind of difficult for me to go back to our local hospital, as just a few years ago both of my parents ended up with stage 4 cancer. They were diagnosed within a week of each other. They were hospitalized in the palliative care unit at this very hospital.
My mother had died on a Tuesday morning. As we planned her funeral we worried about my father not being able to attend because he was in no shape to be able to leave the hospital. A nurse overheard us discussing it and said to us “Let me get this right, you want your father to attend your mother’s funeral? Not possible, so “let’s bring the funeral to him…”
The hospital staff then offered us a room and we were allowed to host my mothers funeral in the hospital. We had the pallbearers carry her casket up the steps and in the front door, with my father’s hospital bed being wheeled behind her. He was able to see everyone and say a final goodbye to our mother.
He started to decline quickly, however, and he was taken out of the funeral service back to his room. We ended up going to the cemetery and laid my mother to rest. My sister and I left and went back to the hospital and just a few hours later my father died. He had willed himself to live until then. He had promised my mother he would never leave her, and he took his last breath only after knowing that she was already gone. He kept his promise.
Fast forward to this wedding photography request. Not only was it in the same hospital, it turned out that the wedding was in the very room where we held my mother’s funeral. I didn’t mention this face to bride and groom, as they were already dealing with enough and I didn’t want to cause any more sadness.
When the hospital staff saw me, however, a few of them took me aside and said that they couldn’t believe that I was there donating my wedding photography services in that very same room, and the only answer I gave them was that at the time when my family was suffering so much, the hospital and staff went above and beyond for us and this is my opportunity to pay it forward.
It was an honor to take part in the ceremony, and an honor to photograph it, to be able to give them precious memories. In fact, an hour after the wedding I quickly edited and printed out five images as the bride, through her tears, asked if I could give her one as quickly as possible so her mother could have a photograph of them in her last days.
About the author: Wendy Teal is a photographer based in the Niagara Region of Canada. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of her work on her website, Facebook, and 500px.